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Boehner says Republicans should stick to principles, and Biden must aim for bipartisanship

It’s the story of how a bartender’s son rose to become second in line to the presidency. Former House speaker John Boehner's new book, "On The House: A Washington Memoir," is a memoir brimming with expletives and unfiltered takes on today’s politics and politicians on both sides of the aisle. He joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the book, Joe Biden, and the state of the Republican party.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's the story of how a bartender's son rose to become second in line to the presidency, a memoir brimming with expletives and unfiltered takes on today's politics and politicians on both sides of the aisle.

    Former House Speaker John Boehner tells it all in his new book, "On the House: A Washington Memoir," released earlier this week.

    And he joins me now.

    John Boehner, welcome to the "NewsHour."

    It is quite a read, this book, full of eye-popping stories, many of them hilarious. And you do spare no language in going after Democrats and Republicans.

    Which party gave you a harder time when you were speaker?

  • John Boehner:

    Oh, hell, it was the Republicans.

    The Democrats, they were the minority party in the House when I was speaker. And the Republicans, we were the majority party. And on any given day I would have 210, 215 solid Republican votes. But, in all, I probably had two or three dozen knuckleheads that I had to deal with, that they were part of the always say no caucus.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And you spend a lot of time talking about the knuckleheads.

    But you're also complimentary. You say most members of Congress are not charlatans.

    So, does it bother you that the public approval of Congress is so low? We just looked at it. It's in the 30s right now.

  • John Boehner:

    Well, yes, it does bother me. But those numbers really haven't changed a whole lot over the decades that I have been around.

    Listen, 90 percent of the colleagues that I worked with, Democrat, Republican, good, honest, decent people, trying to do their best for their constituents and for the country.

    But there's about 10 percent of Congress that — on the far left and on the far right that have different ideas. They're about creating chaos, conflict, drawing attention to themselves, making — raising cash, and going their own separate ways.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Speaking of raising cash, I want to ask you about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

    You actually have some good things to say about her. You compliment her toughness. You say she may turn out to be the most powerful speaker in history. But my question is, Republicans have raised a lot of money demonizing her. Is that sexist?

  • John Boehner:

    Oh, that is not sexist at all. It is just that a lot of Republican voters and independent voters don't really care for her style of San Francisco, liberal policies. And so, over the years, she became the face of the opposition.

    Listen, I was the face of the opposition for a while. I know what it is like. Paul Ryan went through this as well. You know, it is politics. It has nothing to do with identity politics in any way, shape, or form.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You're very clear in the book when you write about former President Trump, his challenging the results of the election, insisting that he had actually won, and the damage that has done to the country.

    How do you explain that?

  • John Boehner:

    Well, I thought the months leading up to the election, when the president kept telling people that the election was going to be stolen, and then we get past the election, and he loses, and he continues to tell people that he — the election was stolen, without providing any real evidence of misdeeds done in these states that were close, none.

    And I think that he abused the loyalty and trust of the people who voted for him by continuing to tell them things that really just weren't true.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Someone you worked very closely with in the House, Kevin McCarthy, who, of course, is now the House minority leader, after the attack on the Capitol on January the 6th, went to Mar-a-Lago.

    He has been very solicitous towards President Trump. Has that been a mistake?

  • John Boehner:

    I don't want to sit back and, as a former member, as a former leader, be the has-been or the Monday-morning quarterback telling the elected officials how they should do their job.

    It is hard enough to govern today, given the polarized politics that we see in America. But I think what Republicans need to do is act like Republicans. Make sure that they remember what the principles of the Republican Party are, things like fiscal discipline, things like a strong national defense, these principles that held our party together for the last 150 years.

    And they will hold us together again through the coming elections, if we will remember who we are as Republicans. It's about the principles of the party, not some personalities.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    One of the personalities that has gotten a lot of attention is a Georgia congresswoman, Marjorie Taylor Greene, who, as you know, has espoused some of this QAnon conspiracy.

    She raised over $3 million in the last quarter, a lot of money for a House member. And so have some of the other members who agree with President Trump that the election was stolen. What does this QAnon belief tell you about the fact that Republicans who embrace it are doing very well, raising a lot of money?

  • John Boehner:

    I don't know what it is. I don't know her.

    But, listen, we have had people in the party, frankly, on both sides, that believe in all kinds of conspiracies. Americans love to believe in these crazy conspiracies.

    And sooner or later, they find out what the facts are,. Well, at least most people find out what the facts are. And so we're going to have fringe characters in both political parties. It's part of the political process. And, frankly, I don't think that is anything new.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You don't think anything can be done about it?

  • John Boehner:

    No. You may have the fringe characters in both political parties.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    There's an equivalent to QAnon on the — in the Democratic Party?

  • John Boehner:

    I don't even know what QAnon is, except a bunch of people who believe in conspiracy theories.

    It's — we have got members on the fringe, both parties.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But in terms of QAnon in particular, this manufactured conspiracy theories about the election, about things that just have no — don't bear any…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • John Boehner:

    For the little bit I know about it, I think it's pretty bizarre.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Is it damaging the country?

  • John Boehner:

    Well, it's just not true.

    And I don't know why people espouse policies or principles or even words that aren't true. In my book, I have got a whole list of what my staff used to call Boehnerisms, things that I would say a lot.

    And the members heard me say this a lot. If you do the right things for the right reasons, the right things will likely happen. Just don't worry about it.

    And I spent most of my career every day trying to do the right thing, trying to be straightforward with the American people, straightforward with my constituents, straightforward with the press. And, frankly, I think the career, my career worked out just fine.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You have known Joe Biden, President Biden, for decades. In the book, you say he's a pretty nice guy. How do you think he's doing 12 weeks into his presidency?

  • John Boehner:

    Listen, I have known Joe Biden for 30 years. I like Joe Biden. He's a good guy.

    He's a traditional Democrat. He's not one of these left-wing progressive types. But over the — his first nearly 100 days, he has catered to this progressive wing, catered to the progressive wing, at the expense of trying to find a way to work in a more bipartisan manner.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    He says he wants to work with Republicans.

  • John Boehner:

    He does.

    But, so far, he hasn't taken that step.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we are going to leave it there, John Boehner.

    The book is "On the House: A Washington Memoir."

    Thank you very much. We appreciate it.

  • John Boehner:

    Judy, thank you.

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